Britain is a nation of animal lovers; owning eight million dogs*. An RAC survey** of 2,000 dog owners revealed that a third of owners are increasingly including their dogs in their holiday plans and contrary to the economic downturn, only 1 in 7 put this down to cutting kennel fees***.
35% of owners consider their dog as their ideal travel companion, with a further 10% saying their dog is more entertaining than their actual partner, their best friend or their children. Dogs were also deemed 50% more likely to entertain than the extended family!
The survey also found that over a third of owners are planning every aspect of their holidays around their dog with:
- Almost half of these (47%) only considering dog-friendly accommodation
- 44% choosing to stay in the UK
- A fifth curtailing their time away
* 1 in 5 only considering outdoor holidays such as camping
However owners often fail to give consideration to the in-car safety of their dog on a journey, so RAC has teamed up with Dogs Trust to urge holidaymakers to take care and strap-in their dogs when they go away this summer. 88% of Brits surveyed agreed that belting up during a journey is an important safety measure however unnervingly 60% have never used a dog harness/seat belt to keep their dog secure.
Head of RAC patrols and dog owner, Phil Ryan said, “It’s great that owners are involving their dogs in their holiday plans but rather than just ensuring the destination is dog-friendly, thought and care needs to be given to the journey. There is no legal requirement for owners to secure their pets when travelling, however this should be considered given that, at 30mph for example, an unrestrained 50lb border collie would be thrown forward with a force equivalent to almost nine 12 stone men**** and also considering the high regard that owners give their dogs – no longer ‘pets’ but ‘partners’.”
The Road Traffic Act 1988 states that “Dogs travelling in vehicles should not be a nuisance or in any way distract the driver during a journey”, but without further regulations in place this law is extremely hard to enforce. The Highway Code also advises that dogs are suitably restrained so they can’t injure you or themselves, if you stop quickly.
To encourage safe travel for dogs RAC has teamed up with Dogs Trust to offer canine travel tips :
- Make sure your dog is secure and comfortable on a journey for their own safety and so they cannot distract you – they should be fitted with a correctly sized harness or within a travelling crate or container
- Allow your dog to become familiar with car journeys by ensuring they have positive experiences over a number of short trips before embarking on a long journey
- Plan your journey time and route carefully as – you’ll need to stop at regular intervals to exercise your pet. To help plan your route visit www.rac.co.uk
- Travel first thing in the morning or later at night when it is cooler, and less busy
- Consider your pet with regards your destination. Busy environments, such as bustling city centres or loud carnivals and public events are not always suitable for dogs, as they can get distressed
- Feed your pet no sooner than two hours before a long journey, to ensure that your pet does not have a full stomach when travelling
- Take a supply of your dogs usual food, in the event that you get stuck in traffic or have a breakdown
- Always take plenty of water and make frequent stops
- Keep the dog’s harness/lead close to hand in case you need to get out of the vehicle
- And remember; never leave an animal in a car on a warm/hot day – even for a few minutes. See www.dogstrust.org.uk for more information about dog friendly holidays.
Dogs Trust Chief Executive Clarissa Baldwin added: “The clunk-click seatbelt message is well known for humans, but sadly not always applied to our beloved pets. We know that more and more families are involving their dog in their holiday plans, including travelling outside the UK. Dogs Trust urges people to consider their pet’s travel needs at the same time that they are stocking up with sun cream and foreign currencies.”
Keeping your pet safe en route can cost less than £10 although 40% of those surveyed thought it would be more than three times that amount. RAC dog harnesses, which work with any normal seatbelt to keep your dog secure in the event of an accident, start from £7.99 and are available from RAC’s webshop, www.rac.co.uk. For a limited time they come with a free dog water bottle too.
* According to the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association’s annual report 2009
** Research was conducted on 2,000 British dog owners, by 72-point on 13 August 2009
*** According to www.boardingkennels.org kennel fees cost an average of £150 per week
**** According to RoSPA, ‘Carrying Pets Safely’ 2006